Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mitch Olson Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Member

pastor mitch olson

The victim has made a live video statement here. PLEASE take the time to watch it. Also, PLEASE read Why Women “Let” Pastors Take Sexual Advantage of Them.

Mitchell “Mitch” Olson, pastor of Grace Ministry Center in Kimball, Michigan, stands accused of sexually assaulting a woman he was counseling during an anointing ritual. When asked about the accusation, Olson said his hand may have — are you ready for it? — slipped in the anointing oil.

WXYZ-7 reports:

A young woman went to investigators at the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office and said she went to her pastor asking for help getting forgiveness for her sins.

He offered an anointing ritual but what happened during that ritual has her believing she is a victim of sexual assault.

Justine Morden says she worshipped at Grace Ministries in Kimball for years.

Last year she decided she wanted to repent for her sins, strengthen her relationship with god, and get more involved – so she met with Pastor Mitch Olson for counsel.

“I trusted him. He has been my pastor since I’ve been in 6th grade,” Morden says.

He told her he could cleanse her of her sins with an anointing ritual – but he didn’t have anointing oil at the church.

That evening she says he wanted to come to the then 19-year-old’s apartment. He said he could anoint her.

However she says he told her because she had committed sexual sins – he would have to anoint sexual parts of her body.

When her mother told her that is not how the anointing ritual should be – she says she was shocked.

We went to the church to ask to speak with the pastor.

When confronted, according to an investigative report, a church board member said the pastor told him his hand may have slipped in the oil.

During a board meeting the pastor said it was an unusual ritual – because it was an exorcism, not an anointing.

“I was completely shocked that he would have the audacity to say this,” Morden says.” No, I am not possessed.”

When asked if he touched Justine inappropriately by police, his answer according to the police report was “No. No. No.”

The prosecutor received the report Tuesday and says a decision on charges is to be made in as soon as two weeks.

Video Link

The Times Herald adds:

The Marysville woman [Justine Morden], who then lived alone in a Port Huron apartment, said she was not happy with the way she was living her life and wanted to do something to get closer to God. She began seeking counseling from Olson, she said. She had known him since she was in middle school because her parents were dedicated members at Grace Ministry Center, 4731 Lapeer Road, Smiths Creek.

Olson suggested she be anointed to cleanse her of her sins. He said he didn’t have anointing oil at the church during a meeting in July 2016, but told her they would make time for the procedure. The practice of anointing is a religious ceremony that typically involves crowning subjects with oil.

“Later on that night, around like 8 or 9, he texted me and asked what my address was,” the alleged victim told the Times Herald. “I gave him the address and didn’t think anything of it since I trusted him … He got there and said, ‘I have the anointing oil if you want to be anointed,’ so I said ‘OK.’”

According to the police report, “Olson then said a prayer and placed oil on her head, Olson then did the same on (her) shoulders. Olson then asked if he could put the oil on her breasts (she) said yes and Olson put his hand down the front of (her) shirt making skin to skin contact with (her) breasts. Olson then put oil on (her) stomach/mid-section. Olson then asked he could put oil on (her) buttock, (she) responded yes. Olson then put his hand down the back of (her) pants and made skin to skin contact with (her) buttock cheeks. Olson then asked if he could put oil on (her) pubic area (front of pants), (she) responded yes. Olson then put his hand down the front of (her) pants and made skin to skin contact with (her) pubic region. Olson then touched (her) knees and ended with her feet.”

The Washington Times reports:

Grace Ministry Center board member Gordon Farnsworth does not dispute that Mr. Olson anointed the victim and touched her on her breasts and pubic region, but said that “the intent and extent of the touching” is in dispute, according to the police report.

Grace Ministry’s board conducted a disciplinary hearing in March attended by Mr. Olson, the alleged victim and the victim’s stepfather, and the resulting action was a mere “slap on the wrist,” according to the stepfather, who recorded the proceedings.

WXYZ reported that Mr. Olson in the same board meeting described the anointing ceremony as an exorcism as he considered Miss Morden possessed.

“Do you want your daughters coming to this church where this could possibly happen … I feel like it (has) been covered up,” he said, the Times Herald reported.

According to the police report, Mr. Olson’s misconduct may not be an isolated incident of impropriety involving a member of his flock: Another young woman has come forward to relay an incident from four years ago when the pastor attempted to record her changing her clothes on a cellphone left in a church changing room.

Prosecutors are currently reviewing the evidence and will decide on whether to move forward on the case in the next few weeks, WXYZ reported last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Times Herald is requesting that other individuals who have either a “story of sexual assault or of an inappropriate occurrence” to contact the paper’s investigative reporters.

Update

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Mitch Olson Slips Out of Criminal Charges

An October 23, 2017 news report published by The Times Herald states:

A civil lawsuit was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court on Friday against Grace Ministry Center in Kimball Township and its former pastor Mitch Olson.

The suit was filed on behalf of the woman who accused Olson of groping her during a religious ceremony. The suit seeks in excess of $25,000. Allegations against Olson include battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Allegations against Grace Ministry Center include negligent supervision, negligent retention, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit comes after the St. Clair County Prosecutor’s Office declined to bring criminal charges against Olson after he was accused of sexually assaulting the woman, 20, of Port Huron. A police report was filed in August that stated Olson placed his hands on the woman’s breasts, buttocks and pubic area during an anointing ceremony inside her apartment.

Olson resigned from his position at the church on Oct. 8, according to a recorded farewell letter he read to church members. Olson was served with the lawsuit on Sunday at Grace Ministry Center during his farewell gathering.

Olson told the Times Herald on Monday that he looks forward to defending his church and himself in court.

“I was served with a lawsuit filed by the plaintiff in this case (Sunday) evening at Grace Ministry Center, a church I founded and served for nearly 11 years and am no longer a part of due to the false allegations of the claimant,” he said. “My heart aches that this person, who was never a member of the church and whom never had counseling from me, would deliberately lie and use the judicial system to advance a personal agenda at the cost to a church who has faithfully served this community for decades. I am left with only one choice: to vigorously defend the church and myself in this matter. We look forward to defending this case in court and restore our reputations that have been so grievously ruined by this person.”

The lawsuit states that “Defendant Mitchell Olson coerced (the woman) on multiple occasions to submit to unwelcome touching, including to touching of her breasts, buttocks, and vagina under her clothing … Plaintiff was fraudulently coerced into believing that the offensive touching was necessary to the anointment and an essential extension of her counseling because of the counselor/counselee relationship Plaintiff and Defendant maintained at the time of the incident and Plaintiff’s consent was therefore not voluntary .. Defendant Mitchell Olson’s actions caused Plaintiff (the woman) irreparable physical injury and emotional harm.”

The lawsuit stated that Olson falsely represented his action. The lawsuit also states that the incident has caused the woman much emotional and mental strain.

…..

The church is also being sued for alleged negligence in how it handled the report of the assault. The lawsuit claims that the church failed to protect the woman when the church board declined to take action against Olson.

The last claim argues that the church was in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act because Olson targeted the woman because of her gender.

“It’s clear that Pastor Olson targeted the victim because she was a young woman,” said Kathleen Garbacz, one of the non-profit attorneys representing the woman. “Not only has this been devastating for her personally, but we want to send a clear message that women should be safe from these kinds of horrors in all places, but especially in places of faith and counseling.”

….

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49 Comments

  1. Rachel

    He comes over as a class A creep. If he is guilty, he needs to be found guilty by the courts, no question. But there’s another issue here, isn’t there? The naivety/gullibility of so many church members. “I trusted him.” No-one should be trusted 100%, whoever they are. And no, a man being asked to help a woman deal with her “sexual sins” is creepy all in itself.

    I really hope this young woman gets justice. I also hope she wises up.

    No doubt he already has a loyal gaggle of parishioners rushing to defend him at every turn.

    Reply
    1. William

      To the comment of “I trusted him”…Mitch is the same as any other man in this world and full of faults just as everyone that has commented on this situation. It seems that everyone is ready to cast the first stone and do not look at the log in their eye. I was not in the rom and do not know what happened and cannot speak for any of the comments or review of the leadership board that is referenced in the Times Herald article. 1 Tim 5 holds witness against pastoral leaders to a different standard and they are also held to a higher consequence. Proberbs 28:13 tells us that God will uncover what we try to cover up. Mans justice is not the same as Gods.
      I feel pain for all that are involved- the girl, the pastor, the girls family and friends, the pastors wife and children, and the members of the church.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Sorry, William, I haven’t sexually molested anyone, so my eyes are quite clear. I am an atheist, so I don’t concern myself with logs (sins) in my eyes. My goal each day is to be a loving, kind, decent person. One reader of this blog is fond of saying that her rule of life is “don’t be an asshole.” Good rule to live by. In Olson’s case, based on public news reports, he is, at the very least, an asshole. It remains to be seen if he faces criminal charges.

        I was a pastor for 25 years. I never would have went to a single woman’s home by myself. Why didn’t he take anyone with him? Why was he there alone?

        Reply
      2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        I would also add that based on your Bble (1 Timothy 3 and Titus) congregants should be able to fully and without reservation trust their pastors. However, as the Black Collar Crime series clearly reveals, pastors should not be trusted above how we typically trust people. Predators lurk in church pulpits, yet far too many congregants have naive, dare I say ignorant, viewpoints about pastors, deacons, church leaders, and worship leaders — to name a few.

        Reply
    2. Anon

      Oh he does. He’s already been caught with child open on his computer. Left the church he was with and took his followers with him to a new place. Its just gonna keep happening. This man has sexual addiction. My first memory of him was a presentation about abstinence at junior high. Where he ate an apple in front of us and told us that’s what sex would be like.

      Reply
  2. Kittybrat

    This is infuriating.
    He is a sexual predator. He lured her into thinking this was what she had to do… as she was taught to trust him. Again, churches make people gullible and ripe for abuse.
    I hope she gets justice. The fact that he asked whether it was OK if he annointed her in each place before he touched her makes it possible legal permission… but it really wasn’t. It’s like if a person thought the doctor was giving a pap exam but was really getting his jollies…
    GODDAMMIT!

    Reply
  3. Darren (not real name)

    To be up front, I was a part of Olson’s youth ministry some 17-19 years ago.

    This incident is deeply frustrating and troubling to me. Though I don’t know everything that happened, I am most dismayed at the elders of Grace church. Reducing this to “bad judgement” is like claiming an atomic bomb is just another weapon. This sort of behavior needs to be taken seriously by the church. It is the same mistake that the Catholic church makes whenever it covers for pedophile priests. It perpetuates the crime and does damage to the witness of the church. My heart sincerely goes out to Mitch Olson and his family. I’m not here to say he’s a horrible person or to claim that I’ve never done anything wrong, but girls don’t usually come out saying things like this just for kicks. It’s embarrassing and shameful for her. I hope and pray that she receives not only justice, but also proper counsel and care from Christians who won’t violate her trust.

    If anyone from Grace is reading this, I beg you to treat this as though it were your own daughter involved. Love Mitch, care for him, and help him to stop. But do not cover for him, do not lie, do not make light of something so serious.

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      ‘Justice, counsel, care…’ I can assure you the girl may never recover from this disgusting man’s assaults. It could well ruin her life for the next 50+ years and no amount of thinking at the ceiling will do anything to help. I beg her – and you – to leave this and every church and never go back to these horribly abusive places. And don’t waste a moment on sympathy for the perpetrator…what’s that verse about hurting children and millstones?

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    Darren, I really am not at all interested about this possibly doing “damage to the witness of the church.” Of course it damages their witness; they are seen very publically to be trying to hush up child abuse because their church somehow matters more than the wellbeing of the abused person! Every time a case like this goes public, people with any ounce of integrity walk away, and they very rarely come back. Because they have seen that the church is rotten at the core. It’s not just one individual person behaving appallingly, it is religious people en masse. And not just one dysfunctional church community but many, all types of denominations, all sorts of places. Bruce highlights these stories because they are so common and because they all have the same theme running through them.

    When you write “My heart goes out sincerely to Mitch Olson and his family”, this is the whole problem! Where have you written “My heart goes out to the victim of this assault”? You haven’t. Too right, girls and women very rarely make this stuff up. But no, it is not “embarrassing” for this girl, it will have cut right to the core of who she is as a person. Any trust she had (and she had a lot) has been destroyed. That is a trauma that lasts a lifetime. My guess is, Christians are probably the last people she is likely to seek out for counsel. And how arrogant of you to assume even now that they are the best people for that.

    Reply
  5. Rachel

    I’ve just read Bruce’s article above and have realised that the victim in this case was not a young girl but an older woman. But it’s still abuse, and she will still have been traumatised, so my main points still stand.

    What you say, Bruce, about patriarchal attitudes combined with naivety of many church members is very apposite. It’s a disastrous combination which results in huge amounts of abuse being covered up. And in victims not receiving justice or care (the blame is placed on them, and/or they are told they must forgive their abuser, etc). It’s so wrong on so many levels.

    I have seen this being played out over quite a few years in my mother’s denomination, the Catholic church, of course. Many people (a truly astounding number worldwide) have walked away in disgust; the people who remain in the pews, attending regularly, giving their time and their money and their loyalty are in deep denial. They are the hard core, if you like, who for various reasons of their own value the institution more than they value the wellbeing of other people including, above all, children. I would mistrust any church group at all, any denomination, that tries to insist “We don’t have an abuse problem here”. The more I read, the more I hear from folk who have a connection to churches, the more I suspect that abuse and its cover-up is embedded within the very fabric. Abusers (largely men) are favoured over victims (overwhelmingly children and teenagers and women) because patriarchy is at the very heart of all these groups. Which is why when stories like this come out, and even when abusers are tried and convicted, there will be people rushing in to say “I am praying for this man who needs our love and support at this difficult time” etc.

    Reply
  6. Darren (not real name)

    This is in response to Rachel and Matilda

    Sympathy for the victim and the perp are not mutually exclusive impulses. Though I have not known Olson for the last 17 years, I knew him enough to want him to repent from his wrongdoing. I want him and his family to heal. I also want healing for the victim (whose name I do not know). You are right – this will put her through a hell that I can’t understand. I believe that she is telling the truth (I thought that point was pretty clear in my initial comment) and I firmly believe that Olson should be removed from ministry immediately. Regardless of how the criminal trial plays out, he is not fit to lead people in this capacity. He needs counseling and whatever other measures necessary to ensure that he does not do this again. I said my heart went out to Olson and his family because I knew them. I babysat his kids. These are people I have been intimately familiar with in the past, so it strikes home. I’m sorry if that bothers you. But yes, my heart also goes out to this young woman.

    I want to address an assumption about my position here. I’m being accused of arrogance because I, “assume even now that they are the best people for that [her recovery].” Though I do hope that Christians will come to her aid, I do not assume that her healing should be facilitated exclusively through Christians. It is possible that her recovery could be facilitated by both believers and non-believers. I hope she gets the best help no matter the metaphysical beliefs of those helping her.

    I understand the impulse to say that the entire Church or all Evangelicals are poison. Having moved in Evangelical circles for decades, I can attest to the fact that there are systemic problems in Evangelicalism, but I can also attest to the existence of robust, healthy, and strong Christian communities. I understand that people have been burned and so it may be difficult to accept that these communities exist, but they do.

    Thanks to both of you for your responses. I appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion even though we are coming from different perspectives.

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      ‘…..I can also attest to the existence of robust, healthy, and strong Christian communities.’
      Yup, I was deep deep deep in fundy-ism for 5 decades as were many on this site. Mr Gerencser would probably say he too thought the churches he pastored with such passion and diligence for 25 yrs were robust and healthy. But how do those warm wonderful communities you say exist treat the poor, the disadvantaged, those with same-sex attraction, those who don’t read the KJV? Or anyone who dares not fit their narrow interpretation of doctrine? Like Rachel, I’m sure the victim’s plight is, as usual, being played down here. The family of the perpetrator will presumably get amazing and wonderful help from their fantastic church friends and do a lot of praising the lord for their ‘healing’ so they will be fine. I can even imagine them testifying to their joy that it happened in order to give god the glory in THEIR lives. Bah, humbug!!!!
      (Sarcastic brit signing out here.)

      Reply
  7. Darren (not real name)

    Slight correction on my last comment. I see that the name of the victim has been included in this piece. I skipped over the quotes from the Times Herald, because I had already read them on the Herald’s website. The Herald did not include the victim’s name, so I did not know it until looking at this article again.

    Reply
  8. Sue

    I sure hope the members of the church ask him to step down. I feel horrible for this person who was taken advantage of in this way. This is sexual assault and is wrong. However I do think this person is very brave for speaking out and making her voice known. He needs to be held accountable and step down from this position as he has violated her and violated God’s word. The board and members of the church should take action on this matter.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes she is. This is why I believe victims of sexual abuse.assault. No one in their right mind would lie about such things, knowing the intense scrutiny that comes when sexual misconduct is reported and made public.

      Reply
      1. Sue

        As a child I was sexually abused and I know the effects of such a violation. It effects every part of a person’s life. Thank you for speaking out and doing these articles. We need to support abuse victims and come along side them in there pain. I am so glad I got support and am healing day by day. Healing is possible with love and support.

        Reply
      2. Darren (not real name)

        I’ve stated this above, but in this context I want to be super clear. I believe this woman and see no immediate reason not to. However, there have been cases in which women have falsely accused men of rape. Maybe in those cases the women weren’t in their right minds. It’s a small point, but we cannot dismiss out of hand the possibility that she could be falsifying or exaggerating her claims. Again, to be clear, I don’t see any real reason to think she isn’t telling the truth and I give her, and anyone who brings an accusation of sexual abuse, the benefit of the doubt.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          In all the time I’ve been writing on these kind of issues, only one woman was found to be lying. Sure, it happens, but I suspect it is more likely that Olson is a crack using bisexual man — ala Ted Haggard — than this woman is lying.

          Reply
          1. Nathan

            This woman is clearly not fabricating anything. What about the many other testimonies of youth? Are they lying as well? Why is everyone out to get this man? If she was making up a story to make him out to be a sexual predator, why not say he touched her genitals, or completely raped her? Her story is mild compared to any other sexual assault case. This pastor can no longer just claim this one girl is lying, but he must go through an entire list of accusations and explain that each one of them is lying. The pastor clearly made a series of unwise decisions because the leaders suggested he begin counseling. The testimony evidence is overwhelming, if the prosecutor needs DNA, the pastor will remain legally innocent, but the evidence in this case, while maybe not enough to convict someone legally, is absolutely enough to remove any pastor from leadership.

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Ah yes, “mild” sexual assault. *Sigh*

          3. Darren (not real name)

            I’m talking about rape / assault cases in general. Yes, it is rare, even extremely rare, so I’m not trying at all to imply that the young woman here is lying. Only pointing out that it is possible for people to lie or exaggerate in these situations. As far as Olson is concerned, I’m a little familiar with him and his history, and I highly doubt that he is on crack or bisexual. I could be wrong, of course, but I see no reason to pile unnecessary speculation on to what is already an awful situation.

          4. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            You missed my point. The same could have been said of Ted Haggard, who was a megachurch pastor and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. I se no reason to defend Olson or any other pastor who is accused of sexual misconduct. People want to rush in and defend the man, saying, I know him and he would never do what he is accused of. No one, including his spouse, knows for certain what Olson would or wouldn’t do.

            Victims rarely lie. Pastors, when caught,lie all the time.

          5. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Are you saying Olson’s alleged behavior is not sexual assault? If a pastor did what he did to your mother/sister/wife, would you think differently?

        2. anotherami

          Darren, I think you mean well, but you are part of the problem, though I doubt you can see why. It is in hope that you sincerely do want to make to make a difference that I offer the following critique.

          You say you believe her, but turn right around and qualify it by saying you “see no immediate reason not to. However…” Seeing “no immediate reason” means you are open to being persuaded otherwise and could easily conceal an underlying hope that she is lying and “however”, places way too emphasis on a tiny, but much publicized, minority. It’s much easier to point at the fraction of cases where there have been false accusations than to acknowledge that is the accusation of “she’s lying” that keeps the vast majority of rape and sexual assault cases unreported.

          And later you say, “I don’t see any real reason to think she isn’t telling the truth and I give her, and anyone who brings an accusation of sexual abuse, the benefit of the doubt.” The “benefit of the doubt” implies you do indeed have some doubt about the victim’s voracity and “real reason” can imply much, including that you can readily imagine reasons not to believe. Knowing you are armed with all these avenues for doubt, why would any victim in their right mind trust you to believe and protect them from the onslaught of public scrutiny into the most intimate aspects of their lives? Is it any wonder that a silent, private hell seems preferable over a loud public one?

          As I said, I really do think you mean well and sincerely want to support victims and prevent there being more to come. But it is this type of an overly-cautious language and approach to the problem that allows so many perpetrators of this violence to go unchecked for years.

          When I was being sexually abused, it was taboo to talk of such things so it was years before I realized I was even being abused. In the decades since, such an astounding number of victims have spoken out that I have been heart-broken and stunned. I fear the ugly truth is that there is a far larger percentage of the male population that are sexual predators than we are comfortable with admitting. What is clear by the numerous scandals of sexual abuse in institutions that serve our youth is that there something about our culture that harbors this shit and it’s up to us to change that.

          I hope this hasn’t turned into a rant and that you hear my plea about your words and approach. For every public case of abuse, there are unknown numbers of others, many of whom suffer in silence alone. The ones we catch usually have multiple victims and that is how they are exposed. How many others have only a single or very few victims and are never exposed? We must make the changes that let them break their silence and prevent the predators from hiding in plain sight or the roll of victims will only grow.

          Reply
          1. Darren (not real name)

            Thanks for the comment. I think there’s some overreach here.

            If someone claims that their house has been robbed, police officers give the benefit of the doubt to that person unless there is some glaring reason not to. But anyone who conducts an investigation into those claims should be aware of the possibility that the person could be lying or exaggerating their claims.

            So here’s what I’m saying.

            1. Like any other criminal claim or accusation, the benefit of the doubt is given to the accuser or victim unless there is some glaring or obvious reason not to give the benefit of the doubt. In this particular case, I know of no obvious reason not to believe her, so I remain in the default position of believing her testimony until I have some real reason not to.

            2. But I am aware of the fact that what little I know of this incident comes from the reporting in the Times Herald, which cannot validate or invalidate the claims of any of the participants. Or to put it differently, I don’t know everything about this case. On an epistemological level, this means I have to be open to the possibility that she is lying or exaggerating. Being open to a possibility does not mean embracing that possibility or hoping for its realization. It’s just a simple exercise in acknowledging the limitations of my own knowledge here.

            I am in no way attempting to undercut this young woman or make light of the situation. This is very, very serious. It is extremely rare for women to falsify these sorts of claims, because no matter how you cut the deck it is embarrassing and often shameful for a woman to admit this sort of thing. You’d have to be almost brazenly cruel and heartless to subject yourself to public humiliation just to harm a pastor. There are hundreds of other ways to do that without inflicting pain upon yourself.

  9. "Shelby"

    What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty??

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      This site is not a court of law. The Black Collar Crime series is based on public news stories and police reports. From these sources, it is clear Olson, at the very least, acted inappropriately. Did he act criminally? We will have to wait until the police in investigation is complete. If this was just an adult man rubbing oil on an adult woman, it is likely there would be no legal consequences. However, Olson is an authority figure with a professional relationship with the woman. The law treats such relationships differently.

      And remember, things said in the comment section belong to their author, not the owner of this blog and the author of this post.

      Reply
  10. Darren (not real name)

    This is in response to Bruce. For some reason the system isn’t allowing me to reply directly to your comment in the thread.

    I’m not exactly sure why you think I’m defending Olson. I’ve stated multiple times that I believe the testimony of the victim and that I think Olson should be removed from ministry immediately. Nor have I said or implied at any point that what he did would not constitute sexual assault. From a criminal case perspective there may be some difficulties making that charge stick if consent was given, but that doesn’t make what he did right or appropriate in any way at all.

    What I have said is that I know him and his family and I hope that he finds a way to repent of this and that his family is able to heal. I have never said that I know him and don’t think he could ever do this sort of thing. I’m familiar enough with his history to believe that this is something he could have done. But I’m also familiar enough with his history to not believe an unsubstantiated speculation that he might be bisexual or on drugs. Could I be wrong on that? Of course. But I don’t think so.

    I understand the need to expose people like Olson and situations like this one. But sometimes that zealousness can lead us to misinterpret anyone who isn’t at Olson’s door with a torch and pitchfork. I’ve tried to express a bit of sympathy for him and his family and it has regularly been interpreted as me not caring for the victim, me excusing his behavior, or me making light of the situations. Those things couldn’t be further from the truth. Because I knew Olson and was under his ministry for a brief time, this incident has been profoundly difficult for me to work though. I know of no one else here who knows him or knew him personally. This situation is not abstract for me in the least. It’s a horrible, deeply sad situation.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I think Another Ami addressed the issues I have with your approach to this story and Olson in particular.

      Actually, severa people who have commented know Olson. I have also receieved private emails from people who know him.

      I don’t know the man personally, but I have had significant experience dealing with sexual abuse victims, both as a pastor and as a writer. I am ALWAYS going to side with the victims of abuse. Always, always, always. It is clear to me, based on how the church board responded to Olson, that there is evidence for the accusations made against him. His statement about his “hand slipping” would be hilarious if it wasn’t connected to causing a young harm.

      I hope you will consider carefully what Another Ami has said to you.

      Reply
      1. Darren (not real name)

        Okay, I guess I’m not sure what people want me to say at this point. Nowhere have I suggested that I do not believe the victim here. I’ve only suggested that there is the possibility that she could be lying or exaggerating, not that I think she is. Nowhere have I suggested that this is not a significant issue or that Olson should be able to continue in ministry. I have considered what Another Ami said to me, and I responded at length and in good faith.

        I understand that this site is not supposed to be friendly to Christians and that’s fine with me. But as a Christian I do not believe that I have the right to condemn Olson. That is simply not my job. His actions are abhorrent, yes. And I deeply and sincerely hope that this young woman can find the help she needs to recover (regardless of whether that comes from Christian or non-Christian people). But I believe that we should also want offenders to stop what they are doing and recover themselves. We should want them to return to a place of healthy sexuality. I include Olson in this wish. I do not understand why that sentiment seems to be anathema here.

        Let’s say he is found innocent in court. Do you want him to continue this sort of behavior or would you want him to find help and stop?

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          You need to stop trying to explain yourself and consider how your words might be viewed by people who have been sexually abused.

          What “help” do you think Olson needs? Have you listened to the victims statement video that was recently published on WXYZ’s website? If not, I encourage you to do so. After viewing it, do you still think Olson needs “help” or is this a man who, at the very least should never, ever be a pastor again? I’m not a Christian, so I have no need to play according to the dictates of the Bible. Forget the assault for a moment. Let’s look at Olson’s power and control over the church and how that affects congregants. You’ll have to step outside of Evangelical bubble to do so. Add to this nutty Charismatic beliefs, including anointing people with oil and thinking they are demon possessed.

          Not much more I can say here. There’s no need for you to keep “defending” yourself. Readers get it by now — you think you are being misunderstood.

          Reply
          1. Darren (not real name)

            This is the sort of response that confuses me. I’ve stated multiple times that I think Olson should be removed from ministry. When Olson was with the Wesleyan church he was found with pornography. The church was set to discipline him, but he resigned and went off and started his own church. Back then, before these much more serious incidents of sexual abuse came to light, I felt that he was not fit for ministry, because he was unwilling to face discipline. My opinion on this has only become stronger now. But his being removed from ministry and his getting help are not mutually exclusive things. You do both.

            I’m also not sure why we wouldn’t want him to get help on this. He could seek counseling. They do have counselors who handle sex offenders. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we should want him to stop doing what he’s doing, recover, and lead a healthy sexual life with his wife.

            I’m sorry, but I don’t need to step outside of Evangelicalism to understand the power that the pastorate has. I’ve served in a number of churches. Some pastors have exercised their power with humility and grace, helping to foster strong church communities. Others have not, and the results have been devastating division and pain. I fully grasp what Olson’s actions mean not only to the victim but also to the congregation he has led.

          2. Darren (not real name)

            I do not feel that I’m being misunderstood here. Rather, I’m stating certain things very clearly (I believe he should be removed from ministry) and some people are totally bypassing those statements, which is leading me to have to defend myself on points that I thought had already been made plain.

          3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Yet you…..never mind. I give up.

            I wish you well.

            Bruce

        2. anotherami

          I want the perpetrators stopped by any means necessary whether it helps them or not before anything else is done. They are the guilty party on a moral level and the victim was innocent and it is our duty to protect the innocent first. IF he is then helped then hooray but that is not really where my concern lies.

          I understand you knew this man and finding out that someone one was close to is a monster creates huge amounts of inner turmoil. Now imagine how much worse that must feel to the victim, who also trusted this man. I know what I’m talking about. I’m a survivor of incest and it is life shattering to have one’s trust violated so extremely.

          I was well aware that at times I was ‘reaching’ in my critique of your post, but I think you are aware that you are also ‘reaching’ for a way to reconcile the person you thought you knew with what you have learned. I did so because when one has been abused, all one can do is reach; for something, anything, to try to make sense of it. Victims will reach for hints about what you may not want to say and can read things into what you say that you never intended or dreamed they would see. And the sense of shame they feel is entirely unjust but still creates that fear of what others really think. The way you speak leaves the victim feeling/fearing they will not be believed especially in situations like this where the abuser holds authority.

          Your continued engagement here leads me to still believe in your sincerity. And I actually feel compassion for you as you try to process this news and what it does to how you view the world and Olson. That’s why I’ve responded. My suggestion to you is that you let the ideas you’ve learned here sit with you. As I am not an atheist, I will even encourage you to prayerfully seek guidance on this issue. And I hope you are able to find your own peace again. It’s something many victims never regain and I would not wish that on you.

          Reply
          1. Darren (not real name)

            To be clear, I am not attempting to compare my own struggle over this issue with the pain and turmoil experienced by any victim of sexual assault or rape. I fully understand that what they go through is far more devastating than what I’m going through.

            But I also want to be clear on another point. I’m not trying to reconcile my image of Olson with this new information. I’m extremely disappointed with him and angry at him, but I can’t say I’m 100% shocked. As I mentioned elsewhere, when he was with the Wesleyan church he was found with pornography. Rather than face church discipline, he resigned and started his own church. This lead me to believe that whatever sexual problems he was dealing with, he was not willing to correct them in any serious way, and though I didn’t predict that he would assault someone (no one can predict that stuff), I figured his problems would persist.

            I do hope people believe that I am being sincere. Though I have not totally agreed with the approach that some on these comments have taken, I do not doubt or call into question anyone’s sincerity here.

  11. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)
  12. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    I have added several links to the original post.

    Reply
  13. Ang Lynn

    I know I’m getting an ear full for this, but how can she claim she was shocked to find out they don’t touch your nonos during anointing. Hmm. And she continues to agree to everything..

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      It is WHERE he touched her that is the problem. Anointing with oil is done on one’s head, not their breasts, buttocks, or genitals.

      James 5:14 says “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:’

      Supposedly Grace Ministry believes and practices the Bible. Compare what Olson did with James 5:14. Note the use of the plural word for elder. If a plurality of elders had come to anoint the victim we wouldn’t be having this discussion. At the very least, Olson violated one of the hard and fast rules of ministry — don’t put yourself in a position where your morality/ethics can be called into question and your integrity compromised. He could have taken someone with him (another elder, his wife), but he didn’t. Why is that?

      Reply
  14. TheTruth

    Please let me first clear something up for Rachel: Before Channel 7 News and The Times Herald came out with the story this past week, believe it or not, the members/attendees of Grace Ministry Church did not know the incident or even the nature of incident with Justine. Yes, somehow some knew a little about something and left Grace but we were told they believed in some rumor. The Board stood up (after we started noticing people have left) and addressed the congregation and announced said “rumor” was going around about something that happened a while ago and that it has been settled and that our assistant pastor resigned. So it is unfair to say we are naive or gullible about a sexual assault committed by pastor Olson or stood behind said assault! In saying that, the ones who knew were the Board,the victim, the accused and whoever was involved in the investigation. Since the Board is the liason, they were the ones appointed to be trusted to make decisions for our church period. When the interview on Channel 7 news aired and the article in the Times Herald came out earlier last week we became aware of the sexual assault against Justine, the same time and way the community did. I can only speak for myself here, I left… my God, my heart about what happened to Justine, I cannot go back. I can honestly say this week has been like grieving a death in so many ways. I just wanted you all to know the truth about the wonderful congregation at Grace and the truth in the way we, the congregation, received news of the devastating things that happened. God speed in justice, this will not shake my faith in God.

    In closing, I don’t know why or how the whole article from the Times Herald was not put here on this site…just let me add (what I feel) a very important part from the Times regarding the investigation:
    Grace Ministry Center board member Gordon Farnsworth said he thinks people should be cautious about what they read in the media and what they hear on social media. He said it isn’t always truthful.
    “Most of what I saw and heard was not factual,” Farnsworth told the Times Herald. “I found it offensive she attacked the entire board since she felt the situation wasn’t handled as she wanted it to be handled … But there was a lot of discrepancy as far as the story goes and it came down to if we felt there was intent when he went over to her apartment and (the board) did not feel there was an intent of a lustful nature. Knowing (Olson) for several years and seeing what he has done for the community … He has gone out of his way to help people and lead people to Christ. I truly feel in my heart he was trying to help this young lady. I do feel there was poor judgment that he went over (to her apartment) without anyone else there, but I feel the situation was taken out of context … Many lives have been hurt through this whole thing.”

    According to the police report, investigating detective Eric Stevens, from the St. Clair County Sheriff Department, asked Farnsworth, “did the anointing involve Mitch anointing (her) breasts, butt cheeks, and pubic/pelvic region,” and Farnsworth said, “yes with the qualifier that the intent and extent of the touching is the point of disagreement between (Olson) and (her).”

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for commenting.

      You are assuming that the board is telling the unvarnished truth. Unless there is a video or audio recording of the meetings, there is no way to know exactly what was said. Boards often spin stories for a variety of reasons.

      Please take time to read the Black Collar Crime series. All these pastors were “good” men, but they were not who/what they seemed to be. Sometimes, even their spouses didn’t really know the men they were married to.

      Anointing genitals, regardless of the motivation, is inappropriate. Doing it in private at a single woman’s home? Even more inappropriate? Does Olson’s actions rise to the level of a crime? That is up to the police/prosecutor to decide.

      Reply
      1. TheTruth

        Thanks for replying.
        My intent of adding more of what was in the Times Herald was not to assume I believed the Board was telling the unvarnished truth, quite the opposite, I’m sorry I should of been more clear. I believe the comment from the Board member in the article was at best totally ignorant of what sexual touching is or isn’t which scares me in “his” thinking and to now see that this is someone who was in a decision making role for Grace, sickens me! So I totally agree with what you said, “Anointing genitals, regardless of the motivation, is inappropriate.” The pastor I thought I “knew” would never think this was appropriate in any way…thus, I didn’t know him at all. In saying this, I feel Justine was deceived so horribly and her trust taken advantage of so badly that at those moments he was “anointing” her, her mind was in such confusion and incapable of knowing what was right or wrong… just assuming here, I am no psychologist or do I know her personally. As far as audio or video I do believe I heard there was some audio, I will have to go back and read a few things. Thank you for your suggestion of reading the Black Collar Crime series. Yes, it is up to the prosecutor/police to decide, my hope is, as I’m sure it is everyone’s hope, that truth will prevail.

        Reply
        1. TheTruth

          May I add, Justine you are very brave to unveil the truth against all opposition of naysayers and how much IT WILL help other victims in going through, or will go through, similar things. Keep your chin up, you will prevail and heal.

          Reply
          1. TheTruth

            This is the link to the full article in the Times Herald newspaper

            [The story is linked in the main article. No need to add the link here.]

  15. Sam

    You all have had your shot at PASTOR MITCH now let me tell you about a man of God the would never do something like this. I have known Mitch and his wife for 12 years, served on ministry boards with him, spent many a night at youth camp serving the Lord together. He is a man of integrity and you are tearing him down on what one person says.
    You don’t know the man and father and pastor that he is, I do! HE has been my Mentor and friend and always forthright in his intentions. This man has never lied to me nor would he, because that is the kind of guy he is.
    Now he is not perfect, nor am I or even you. We all have faults because we live in a fallen state thanks to our ancestors Adam and Eve. I am sure that this is not what you want to hear about Mitch because your full of slander and falsehoods but I am speaking the truth. Before you write your story maybe you should be ALL of the facts from both sides.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Since this blog post is made up of news reports and not personal opinion, what exactly did the newspapers get wrong? Can you provide eviedence for your claims? I will gladly post any verifiable information.

      You can’t possibly know if Olson did what he is accused of. None of us know anyone so well that we can speak infallibly to their morality and character. Unless you have been in Olson’s company 24-7 you cannot vouch for his behavior on the night in question.

      David, of Biblical fame, was called a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed adultery and murder. Is Olson a better man than David?

      Again, if you have information that corrects anything or adds to the news stories, please email it to me. That you didn’t offer up such information in your comment suggests to me that you have none or you have been told not to say anything publicly,

      Olson may or may not be guilty of criminal behavior, but based on the information provided by the press, we can certainly conclude he acted inappropriately. I know of no anointing ritual that requires oil be placed on various body parts (and so much oil that his hand slipped). Are you aware of the alleged porn issue at the previous church Olson pastored?

      Reply
    2. Rachel

      Sam, almost every one of your remarks here smacks of denial. However well you think you know this person (or anybody else, for that matter) you cannot know everything about him. “He would never do anything like this” and “He is a man of integrity” and “The man has never lied to me. . because that is the kind of guy he is”? Do you think that men who sexually assault women have a particular appearance that marks them out? Or are you assuming that because Mitch Olson is a man of the cloth he can’t possibly have assaulted a woman?

      The world teems with people who have been cut to the core when someone they felt they knew well and trusted (a pastor, a sibling, a spouse) has been shown to have committed this kind of crime. Also, it teems with people (and you appear to be one of them, at this time) who resolutely carry on, often in the face of compelling evidence, insisting that their man is innocent. More fundamentally, do you really think that this woman would go to the police and tell them of a humiliating sexual assault just on a whim? When you say that we are “tearing him down on what one person says” you are saying she cannot be trusted. Arte you aware of anything that might genuinely suggest that she should NOT be trusted here? (If so, contact the police.) Statistically, false reports of sexual assault are rare; it is far more common for people who HAVE been assaulted to not contact the police at all, because they feel shame, or suspect they will not be believed, or fear that their reputation will be taken apart in court by aggressive defense lawyers.

      Your suggestion that Bruce should get “ALL of the facts from both sides” is risible: you think that someone who has committed sexual assault is going to be completely honest about it?! The sad thing is, you clearly do accept your pastor’s word 100% without question, and this is the whole problem. You were not in the room with these two people, ergo you can’t POSSIBLY know. I for one choose to believe the complainant; I know how difficult it is to lodge complaints like this. Also, Mitch Olsen himself has said “My hand slipped”: that is an admission that he WAS in the room with this woman, “anointing” her, and inappropriately.

      As I said, what you are saying is classic denial. The total refusal to accept that a pastor, someone you placed a lot of trust in (as did this lady, don’t forget that), has let you down. The moral there strikes me as obvious: never put ANYBODY on a pedestal of that kind. So many people do: with some people it’s a clergyman, with others it’s a celebrity, with others it’s a member of their own family. Betrayal of trust is a painful thing to have to deal with but dismissing serious allegations because we don’t want to confront that pain is not going to make the problem go away.

      Reply
      1. ForTruth

        Rachel, well put. May I add, Sam, these are not slams against Olson, I see you feel you have a need to protect him…the facts are out there. Olson did not deny what he did to Justine, his denial is in the intent… if that is what you are protecting, the act of how he anointed Justine??? then your character is questionable. Do you also believe that Olson would protect you if you have been the one to do what he (admitting) did? The pastor I thought I knew as well would not condone it, he would of prayed for you. But like I said in an earlier post, he is not the man “pastor”‘I thought I knew. This also has nothing to do with the log in one’s own eye, no one here said they were perfect, it’s about his (again, his own admission) deplorable act of anointing, inexcusable!

        Reply

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